Sunday, December 12, 2010

John Hemming believes he's honoured the pledge - by voting for tuition fees

It really is quite sad to watch an MP floundering trying to justify the impossible, but John Hemming is maintaining - against all the evidence - that his vote on Thursday to allow tuition fees to triple is actually keeping his word. He's wrong, but won't admit it, so the prosecution calls a number of fellow Lib Dem MPs for their views:

Burnley's Gordon Entwhistle is quoted in his local paper
“Ideologically, I would want free education and so I’m not comfortable with this but it’s the best we can get in the circumstances.”
and doesn't seem to object when the paper writes
The Liberal Democrat MP broke his party’s pre-election pledge to cap higher education tuition fees, but defended his decision by saying it was the best deal for Burnley and the country
More directly, Lynne Featherstone (Hornsey & Wood Green) wrote on her blog
"...on breaking the NUS pledge – I can only apologise..."
Ceredigion's Mark Williams kept his word
"I will be voting against the increase in tuition fees - I can’t justify £9,000 fees to students in Ceredigion, and I do believe a pledge is a pledge"

Transport Minister Norman Baker spoke to Five Live
"We made a pledge we could not deliver which I believe is deeply regrettable and rather embarrassing"

Tom Brake certainly accepts that he did not keep to the pledge he signed earlier in the year.

Even Nick Clegg himself said that he
"massively regrets that he can't do what we promised before the election"

I have already commented that it was wrong for MPs to abstain on this issue - it amounts to cowardice. It is intellectual cowardice now not to face up to the fact that a clearly stated pledge was broken. Argue about why it was broken, by all means, but to flap around dodging the issue by claiming something that is demonstrably wrong just looks, well, silly.

On Thursday, everybody accepts that the governing parties voted to increase the cap tuition fees - that is indisputable. This was a very specific part of the pledge that all Liberal Democrat MPs and candidates signed in the run up to the May election. No ifs or buts, it was front and centre - a unique policy promise in that it was supported by personal guarantees to the electorate.

No matter how much John may complain, the fact is that in common with a chunk of the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party, he voted to increase the cap on tuition fees. In doing so, he clearly broke a promise. In continuing to argue otherwise, he is looking desperate and ridiculous.

His position is only slightly more ridiculous than that of Dr Evan Harris, a former Liberal Democrat MP, who argues that to get rid of tuition fees, we should elect more Lib Dem MPs. Now, I respect Dr Harris' views on many things - he is an eminently sensible man - but I think he's wildly out of touch with the electorate if he thinks that there is any appetite to put more Liberal Democrats into parliament. Current polls show them with a whopping 9% of the vote, which is likely to give them just nine seats in parliament on a uniform national swing. Other polling suggests that over half of their electorate will be looking to take their support elsewhere at the next elections. The co-chair of Warwick University Liberal Democrats cut up his membership card, angry that his association had provided so much support to local candidates - Lorely Burt in particular - only to have that thrown back in their faces by ungrateful members of parliament.

1 comment:

john said...

I have dealt with this on my web log.

I am not the only Lib Dem MP that takes this view.